Wildfires rage across the west coast


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California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency Sept. 10 as deadly wildfires raged across the west coast, affecting Fresno, Madera and Mariposa counties due to the Creek Fire.

The Eldorado Fire continues to burn parts of San Bernardino county and in San Diego county, the Valley Fire is flaring in several spots due to dry conditions and high winds.

Current wildfire “hot spots” are spotted all along the west coast. Courtesy Tyler Sebree/WFSA 12 News

Meteorologist Tyler Sebree from WSFA 12 News in Montgomery, Alabama calls the scene “gut-wrenching” on his Facebook page with a Fire tracking map for updated information.

As firefighters continue to battle the blazes, embers and ash fall from the sky for hundreds of miles outside of the fires themselves. Thousands of buildings and residents are in immediate danger and have been evacuated from their homes and businesses. More than 140,000 people are without electricity as of the first week in September according to USA Today,

On Sept. 8, the National Interagency Fire Center recorded over 3 million acres have been burnt by the nearly 200 wildfires.

“I am freaking out, checking my phone every hour for updates,” said Marci Wyart, a Camino resident who lives 24 miles from the Fork Fire in Pollack. “We moved up here to retire and then this happens, but our new neighbors tell us, ‘That’s the price you pay living up here near the forest—you just get used to it.’”

The electricity in Camino went out from Wednesday to Friday. 

Community outreach workers hand out emergency supplies at The Home Depot in Placerville. CA. Marci Wyart/Courtesy

“They set up a community outreach center in the parking lot of Home Depot in Placerville,” Wyart said. “They handed out bottled water, granola bars, flashlights and a solar battery pack to recharge cell phones.”

Solar pack used for charging cellphones given to residents in Camino, CA. Marci Wyart/Courtesy

Placerville is only seven miles south of Camino where a two-and-a-half-mile perimeter kept the Fork Fire contained at 7%. Paradise is once again under siege as it was in the fall of 2018.

“The drive up to Santa Cruz this past weekend was unreal,” said Hollie Hopkins, resident of Mission Viejo. “It was eerie and apocalyptic,” Hopkins added.

Prior to her visit, the residents of Santa Cruz had been evacuated for two weeks. There were 5o,ooo to 60,000 people affected by the CZU Lightning Complex Fire which was sparked by lightning in a dry thunderstorm. “Unfortunately, there was no rain,” said Hopkins, who’s friend’s son lost his home.

Fuller home destroyed by California wildfire. Bianca Wright via Facebook/Courtesy

“There was smoke and ash everywhere and people had their headlights on at 4 p.m. on the highway during the dark drive back home to OC with the only light being from an orange sky overhead,” Hopkins said.

“The not knowing what’s in store for the future is the scariest thing of all,” Hopkins said.

Helicopters have rescued hundreds of people from the Sierra National Park in Northern California where the Creek Fire has burned an area the size of Central Park nearly every half-hour. Thirty-four state parks have been closed due to the wildfires.

California wildfires continue to burn with no end in sight due to the ongoing Diablo winds in the northwest region and to the threatening Santa Ana winds expected in mid-October.

New techniques are being tested by California firefighters to combat the raging fires. The most controversial is the shut down of the power grids providing electricity to hundreds of thousands of residents in the affected areas by companies like Pacific Gas and Electric Company. 

It is in the public’s best interest according to PG&E and is called a Public Safety Power Shutoff. When dangerous weather conditions, such as a lightning storm or fires threaten to spark the electric grid, a PSPS is done to prevent damage to the electrical  system.

Newsom signed Assembly Bill 2147 after he visited the North Complex Fire Zone on Friday. The bill allows inmates who participate in the firefighting program with the Department of Corrections to obtain EMT training and certification if not prohibited because they have committed a violent crime or sex offense. Upon release from prison, some charges may be set aside to allow the former prisoner an opportunity to work for municipal fire departments. 

As of Sept. 15, there have been 7,718 fire incidents in California this year alone. There have been 5,430 structures damaged or destroyed and 20 deaths. Over 3,154,107 acres have been destroyed.

Firefighters stay alert at Orange County Fire Authority Station #24 Mission Viejo, California. Martha Phillips/Lariat

UPDATE: Oct. 3, 2020

On Oct. 1, Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27) issued a press release urging President Trump to issue a state of emergency in the Angeles National Forest. The Bobcat fire has burned over 115,000 acres. Over 70,000 people have been evacuated and 230 homes and other structures have been destroyed causing nealy $89,000 million in damages in Los Angeles County.

The Glass fire in Napa and Sonoma counties in Northern California is the fastest growing wildfire this year causing over 66,000 residents to evacuate in the past week.

For a video on the fire in California’s wine country, click here.